The New Titans: The Zandia Solution, Chapter 4: A Dish Best Served Cold

by Libbylawrence

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Arisia led her group of Titans in a rapid flight via power ring platform into the arena where Artemis, Changeling, Cyborg, Hawk, and Dove stood together. She said, “Praise Hera you’re all safe! But where’s Raven?”

Protector said, “We’d hoped she would be with the rest of you! Apparently that’s not the case. I sure hope she’s not hurt.”

Cyborg nodded and said, “Yeah, witchy was the main source of Brother Blood’s last defeat. I sure don’t want to imagine what it would mean if he’s paying her back for that now!”

Arisia said, “Perhaps my ring can locate her! For that matter, what happened to Kole?

Dove said, “She broke through Blood’s private force-field. I saw that much before she vanished!”

Lilith Clay said, “I sense powerful emotions above us. But all are sinister in nature! Surely Raven is not among them.”

Artemis nodded as she thought, Unless she’s fallen prey to her evil father Trigon again in some way. It was an attempt to parasitically drain Raven of that dark power that left Brother Blood in a coma. Perhaps he carries enough of Trigon in his metabolism to want to use Raven for his own purposes!

They entered the private boxed-off area where Brother Blood had been sitting to find that grim figure on his throne. No sooner had they entered the chamber than a sliding compartment shut them off from public view. “OK, Blood, we’re gonna make this easy on you,” said Hawk. “Take us to our friends Raven and Kole, or we’ll just help you live up to your name in a way you won’t like one bit!”

Lilith frowned and whispered, “He’s not going to answer. He’s unable to do so!” Her keen empathic senses enabled her to see something that the others failed to see. “He’s vacant! His mind is not just clouded like the Major Victory’s was. It’s almost empty!” she mused.

Brother Blood stood up suddenly and raised his fist in defiance. “You little know the truth about the perils you face!” he said.

“His voice is artificial!” said the Herald. “I know sound systems, and those words aren’t coming from a human throat!”

Changeling said, “I know where I’ve heard that weird sound before, too! It’s the Brain!” A curtain parted behind Brother Blood’s throne to reveal several garishly costumed figures. “The Brotherhood of Evil — I was right!” cried Gar as he saw their old enemies.

“The simple laws of probability ensured that you would eventually be correct in something, you witless dolt!” said the odd voice as Blood turned slightly to reveal something different from his customary crimson costume and skull-shaped cowl.

Herald said, “He’s not aware of us! He’s like some semi-ambulatory puppet! That thing built on the back of his skull crown is wired into his skull!”

“That thing, as you put it, is a receiving station through which my thoughts and voice may be transmitted,” said the Brain.

“The Brain was a genius who had his mind preserved in a computerized device before his death,” explained Artemis. “That portable mind seems to be controlling Brother Blood’s near-mindless body.”

Harlequin shrugged and said, “Makes me miss the Flamesplasher Twins!”

Golden Eagle said, “Whoa! These guys are totally bizarre!” He gestured to where the talking ape Monsieur Mallah stood protectively near the body his master, the Brain, controlled remotely.

Next to Mallah stood Warp, Phobia, Houngan, and Plasmus. The international criminals had banded together as the second Brotherhood of Evil and had fought the New Teen Titans more than once. Their past goals had included taking Brother Blood’s power in some manner. It was apparent now that they had succeeded in doing just that.

Hawk didn’t wait for any other explanations. He leaped forward and started to grapple with the ape known as Monsieur Mallah. “OK, you refugee from the Planet of the Apes, get ready to have your organs grinded!” he said with a fierce smile. He gasped as the clever ape used a form of judo to use his momentum against him.

He crashed into the wall and shook his head as the talking ape said, “Perhaps you are more of the beast than I, eh?”

“You mean his breath?” said Dove. “Well, that’s a low blow.” She flipped over the ape’s head, nimbly dodging his long arms.

While Mallah was distracted by her amazing agility, Hawk dived forward and connected with a stunning punch of his own. “Nobody makes a monkey out of me!” he said.

Dove sighed and said, “You just had to say it, didn’t you?”

Artemis had raised her own gleaming lasso, only to drop it as her knees buckled beneath her, and she fell on the floor in pain. “Houngan! It’s like a knife in my stomach!” she gasped.

Cyborg said, “Hold on, Artemis! I’ll take care of our cyber-voodoo priest!” He gestured toward the smiling black man in red and gold.

Houngan was a well-educated Haitian man who had combined technology with rituals of ancient magic to project intense pain into the body of any victim whose hair, blood, or tissues he had previously secured. He jabbed a sharp stylus into a doll, and Cyborg lost his balance and crashed into the fallen Artemis. “Ha-ha-ha! You fail to live up to your own egotistical posturing!” said Houngan.

Harlequin had swiftly and silently slipped up beside him, and suddenly with a shrill scream, she slammed a huge powder-covered object into his face. Houngan dropped his weapons and choked as a narcotic powder clung to his face and eyes. “We’ve never met before, so you can’t use your little sci-fi voodoo doll on me. You don’t have my hair!” she laughed. As he struggled to rise, she kicked him and jumped on his back. “Just lay still and enjoy your makeover, honey!”

As Cyborg and Artemis recovered from Houngan’s attack, Changeling turned into a rhinoceros and charged at Plasmus, who was desperately trying to reach a soaring and swooping Golden Eagle. He crashed into the purple-pinkish German villain and hurled him across the room. “Now that’s the way I like it! We take care of business with, like, no nasty lingering physical contact!” he said.

“Sounds like most of your dates, Logan!” yelled Cyborg. He jumped across the room and extended one hand to Brother Blood’s head. Maybe I can cut off Brain’s access to this poor sap, he thought. Before he could do more than make contact via a few deftly extended wires, Cyborg screamed in agony and collapsed.

“Dolt! Did you not expect me to secure my system? None shall overcome my control of Brother Blood via technological means!” said the Brain.

“Vic!” cried Changeling as he rushed to his friend’s side. “He’s hurt bad!” said the green youth as Lilith cradled him in her arms and tried to access the damage.

“Vic will be OK, Gar,” she said. “He’s strong. This was nothing more than a sudden shock to his system. Kind of like a virus hitting a non-mechanical being.”

Artemis had been grabbed from behind by Plasmus and had reacted with stunning success. Rather than try to dislodge his burning grip through raw force, she deftly twisted away and spun her lasso through his melting body until the internal vibrations of the gleaming lasso dispersed his substance across the room. “He’ll probably re-form in time, but just like he shifts mass to avoid physical injury, so did I create a vibratory field within him that made him fall apart,” she said.

Hawk said, “Yeah, if it works, it works! We don’t need heavy science!” By this time, Hawk had pummeled Monsieur Mallah senseless.

Arisia had been dodging the time-space warp holes created around her nimble body by the French villain known appropriately as Warp. “I’m not going anywhere, but you are!” she said, twirling around like a flying ballerina as Golden Eagle dropped like a rock on Warp’s head.

Three blows left the villain out cold. “Dude never saw it coming!” said Golden Eagle.

However, Phobia’s mutant power to invoke fear had gripped the Protector. Jason Hart saw his cousin Ted fall to drug abuse once more. The pain his sibling suffered left him cold and shaken, but the nightmare did not end. It merely replayed again and again with vivid intensity.

Phobia laughed harshly and said, “How puny this one is! He is not even worth my time!”

Arisia swooped down and stood between the purple-clad hero and the villainess in green. “Like, you are so rotten to the max! Let’s see you try that mind-game on me!” she cried.

Phobia’s mutant power to touch a mind and create vivid images of fear struck Arisia, but the golden girl merely stood firm and smiled as her ring pulsed ever brighter. “Totally born without fear. It’s in the handbook, you know?” she said.

Phobia shrieked as the brilliant light blinded her. “I can’t see! That little brat has robbed me of sight itself!” she cried.

Arisia said, “You’ll be better in time!” She bent over Protector and helped him stand up. “Are you OK, Protector?”

He nodded and said, “Yes, I think so. My ego was hurt more than I was!”

At that moment, the Herald returned with Raven over his shoulder. “She’s drugged, but she’ll be fine in time. I had to drop a couple of guards, but I got her out. For some reason, they were keeping her separated from everyone else. They even took her costume away!” he said.

Brain said, “Bah! We had no desire to expose our slave to Raven again! Merely seeing the one who so defeated him before might have roused him from our control. That is why we took no chances with her. We wanted no trace of her identity to find its way to Brother Blood’s slumbering psyche.”

Artemis said, “Poor Raven. Vic’s still out cold, too.”

Suddenly, Kole Weathers ran into view and called out, “I’m here! Warp sent me across the island, but I’m back now!”

“I’m glad to see you, curly-top!” said Harlequin.

Lilith said, “Maybe I can end this now!” She ran across the room and placed her hands on Brother Blood’s face. The reddish-blonde-haired beauty was careful not to touch the skull-shaped device that linked the man to the Brain.

The Brain cried, “Away from him, girl! I’ll see you die before I lose my hold on him!”

She ignored the threats and gently whispered words of comfort to the entranced villain as she probed his mind with her remarkable empathic powers.

“Even without her goddess-level power, legs is amazing!” said Changeling.

The Brain said, “I will kill you all! I can still control his body!” However, Brother Blood did not move a muscle and did not resist Lilith in any way.

“The Brain and his gang must have taken over Blood’s body after he fell into the coma,” said Artemis. “They’ve been using him as a figurehead to run the whole island and reap financial gain through offering sanctuary to super-crooks!”

Dove said, “And yet, why doesn’t the Brain fight back? We saw him move Blood’s body briefly before!”

“He can’t fight back because his own systems have been disrupted!” said a voice as a man in a black cloak and golden armor emerged from the shadows. Sparks erupted from the Brain’s original housing, and his inhuman voiced was silenced.

“Crimelord! It’s that creep who tried to kill me months ago!” said Changeling.

Crimelord laughed and said, “I’ll do more than try to kill you this time, you young thug!”

Gar shifted to tiger form, only to collapse as a dart struck his body, and Kole placed one boot on his head. She changed form and became a very pretty, dark-haired young woman.

“Gemini! You posed as Jillian Jackson when we last fought your group,” said Artemis.

The daughter of the late Madame Rouge sneered and said, “Yes, and I hate you all as much as ever. You killed my mother, and all her murderers are going to pay today!”

Dove danced aside as a heavy metal bench crashed into Hawk with stunning force. “He’s not alone!” she cried as the air around her body shimmered and became a toxic gas that robbed her of her senses. The same vapor left Harlequin and Protector stunned as well.

“Shimmer! It’s the whole lousy Fearsome Five!” yelled Changeling as a striking woman with curly red hair and a golden costume stepped forward.

“My ability to transmute matter has left your allies stunned and helpless! Now we’ll have fun with you!” said Shimmer. She kicked Dove in the chest and said, “I owe her and that Green Lantern a beating for what they did to me!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Titans West: Girl Talk.]

Arisia created a huge bull’s head that roared toward Mammoth, Shimmer’s lumbering sibling, only to pass harmlessly through his golden-costumed form. “My sister told me to wear this color! You can’t stop me now!” he said with a brutal grin on his animalistic features. He caught Arisia’s leg and slammed her into the wall and then began to punch her with his gold-gloved fists.

Herald punched keys on his horn and sent a blast of solid concentrated sound into the huge man, but all he could do was slow him down. Golden Eagle tried to help, but he crashed into a wall and lay still.

“Idiot! I disrupted his control over his armor!” said Crimelord.

Artemis charged forward and leaped over a gaping hole created by Shimmer’s transmutation power. She landed gracefully and grabbed the arm of the brutish Mammoth before he could hit Arisia again. “She’s had enough, and I’m not going to let you hurt her again!” she vowed.

A sultry Indian woman in a revealing white costume stepped forward and gestured as arcane energy erupted through the bodies of Herald and Artemis.

“Jinx, you brought them down with ease! How I do love you!” said Crimelord. He walked forward and ripped the Brain out of his case. With one casual motion of his hand, he left the evil mind to die on the cold floor. “Gemini, pet, we just killed one of your mother’s enemies. Now, as I promised long ago when I re-formed the Fearsome Five, we will kill Logan and his Titans and the Brain’s allies, as well. They are to blame for all she suffered as well!”

Gemini nodded as tears gleamed for her fierce eyes. “Yes! I want them all to pay!” she cried. She pushed Lilith down, but the young woman kept her hands on Blood’s still body.

“Blood is of no use to us. Shall I kill him?” asked Shimmer as she stepped closer to the odd couple.

“No!” said Crimelord. “We may as well use him as Brain did. Why should we let Zandia slip away when we can pull the puppet’s string’s as easily as they did?” He jerked Lilith to her feet and said, “Put her in his private room. Perhaps she can keep him docile. As for the rest, well, let’s not rush! I want to relish their deaths! Logan and I have had unsettled business for many a year now!”

“As long as he dies!” said Gemini. “As long as they all die! My mother was betrayed by the Brain and Mallah. I want them dead, too. The Titans are not my only enemies here!”

Crimelord slipped his arm around Jinx and said, “We are well aware of how you have suffered. Your family will be avenged. My old pains shall be assuaged. You may rely on me. My hatred for Logan speaks for itself. But we must secure Blood; it will not do for his followers to learn the truth about him. As I said, let the woman stay with him. She is not one of the Titans that opposed us before.”

Lilith accompanied Brother Blood as Mammoth carried him through secret passages to an ornate chamber. “Enjoy yourself while you can! I still want to see all you Titans pay!” he said as he shoved her roughly to the floor and tossed Brother Blood on a divan.

The door slammed behind him, and Lilith found herself alone with the still form of Brother Blood. “The device the Brain used to control him is inactive, since the Brain himself apparently died. I can remove it and his cowl. Perhaps that will make him more comfortable.” She sat next to him on the plush divan and gently removed his cowl to reveal mature and handsome features. Blood was charismatic enough to rule a global cult, and his physical charms were potent even while he was devoid of wit or intellect.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “No one wants to hurt you!”

The still figure trembled slightly, and his hand reached out to close around her own.

She smiled at him and touched his face as his eyes moved, and under the soothing influence of her powers, he began to show signs of life.

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